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Don't We Believe in Accidents? Let's Be Realistic About Liability

March 01, 1987

John F. Lawrence was correct in his Feb. 22 column, "Liability Suit System Needs an Overhaul."

It is disheartening that no one believes in accidents anymore; instead, someone must be at fault and must pay for someone else's foolishness or clumsiness.

I hesitate to advocate limits on damage awards, since someone who has a legitimate claim may be denied a fully deserved compensation. The best solution is to change the current definition of liability. Liability equals responsibility. If someone (or a business or public agency) is to be considered responsible for injury to another, he should also be deemed negligent. If a homeowner has a swimming pool that is fenced in with "No Trespassing" signs, and someone sneaks in and drowns, the homeowner should not be liable. If no fence exists and the pool is open to all, then the homeowner has been negligent and should be liable.

The same reasoning can be used for someone who stupidly misuses a consumer product and blames the non-negligent manufacturer. The same reasoning can also be used for a city government's being afraid to shelter the homeless for fear that some careless or clumsy person will try to hold the city liable for injuries.

Let's get the Legislature busy with limiting liability to those who are actually negligent, while allowing judges and juries the freedom to make fair awards in cases where someone actually suffers because of someone else's negligence.

TED BROWN

Los Angeles

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